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    Book Club in a Bag

    YOUR vote for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction

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    You may have heard that the Pulitzer Prize board has decided not to award the prize this year in the fiction category. Read more from one of the jurors if you're curious about the how and why.

    In the meantime, we thought that with so many incredible fiction books out there this year, why not vote for our own unofficial winner? Or simply recommend a book you feel is worthy of a prize. We may not be able to offer the intended $10,000 cash prize (which the Pulitzer Prize awards for fiction), but we can certainly recommend "winners" for fellow readers of fiction to enjoy!

    The criteria used by the Pulitzer Prize jury to narrow down their shortlist is "distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life." Here are the three fiction finalists that were nominated for the prize (note that we ALREADY put you on to 2 of the 3 books right here on this blog!):


    Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

    Denis Johnson's Train Dreams is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions. Robert Grainer is a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century--an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West--its otherworldly flora and fauna, its rugged loggers and bridge builders--the new novella by the National Book Award-winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

    Why you should read it: We recommended it to you FIRST!

    Other good reasons: If you like Westerns. Or if you'd like to impress your friends by reading an example of great American literature... this short read is just over 100 pages.



    Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

    From the celebrated twenty-nine-year-old author of the everywhere-heralded short-story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves ("How I wish these were my own words, instead of the breakneck demon writer Karen Russell's . . . Run for your life. This girl is on fire"-- Los Angeles Times Book Review ) comes a blazingly original debut novel that takes us back to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine. The Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, formerly #1 in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. Ava's mother, the park's indomitable headliner, has just died; her sister, Ossie, has fallen in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, who may or may not be an actual ghost; and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, who dreams of becoming a scholar, has just defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their family business from going under. Ava's father, affectionately known as Chief Bigtree, is AWOL; and that leaves Ava, a resourceful but terrified thirteen, to manage ninety-eight gators and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief. Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, Karen Russell has written an utterly singular novel about a family's struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking. An arrestingly beautiful and inventive work from a vibrant new voice in fiction.


    Why you should read it: We recommended it to you FIRST!

    Other reasons: Unforgettable. You've never read anything like it before! Just read a few pages and see if you can put it down.


    The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

    The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has. The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions---questions of life's meaning and of the value of work and society---through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.


    Why you should read it: Think about it. This book was unfinished at the author's death. Posthumously published. Now shortlisted for a $10,000 Pulitzer prize? Must be good.



    Who would you vote for? What other books would you nominate? Tell us in the comments.


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